AI Has Arrived, and That Really Worries the World’s Brightest Minds

On the first Sunday afternoon of 2015, Elon Musk took to the stage at a closed-door conference at a Puerto Rican resort to discuss an intelligence explosion. This slightly scary theoretical term refers to an uncontrolled hyper-leap in the cognitive ability of AI that Musk and physicist Stephen Hawking worry could one day spell doom for the human race.

That someone of Musk’s considerable public stature was addressing an AI ethics conference—long the domain of obscure academics—was remarkable. But the conference, with the optimistic title “The Future of AI: Opportunities and Challenges,” was an unprecedented meeting of the minds that brought academics like Oxford AI ethicist Nick Bostrom together with industry bigwigs like Skype founder Jaan Tallinn and Google AI expert Shane Legg.

Musk and Hawking fret over an AI apocalypse, but there are more immediate threats.

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  • Xavier

    You all do realize that this, combined with Islamic Jihad, is the basis of Dune? From the Orange Catholic Bible: Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a man’s mind.

    • Brett_McS

      I’ve heard that Dune the book is very good. The movie didn’t do much for me.

      Hawking was never rated in the top 10 of working physicists in the world today (peer rating), but he’s the only name the average punter would think of.

    • mauser 98

      the spice must flow

    • Uncle_Waspy

      Very strange movie. It featured Patrick Stewart and Sting.

      • Xavier

        The book is much more detailed and nuanced; Herbert used a spice based economy instead of oil, and the Fremen, sand dwelling nomads who eventually overthrow the empire, are modeled on Moslem jihadists.

        I didn’t know all that when I read it at 15.
        Now I find it disturbing.

        • Una Salus

          When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles.

          Words of an ancient philosopher (Attributed by Harq al-Ada to one Louis Veuillot)

        • Una Salus

          Arthur C Clarke gave the best summary of it

          Dune:

          the finest, most widely acclaimed and enduring Science Fiction
          novel of this century. Huge in scope, towering in concept, it is a work that will live in the reader’s imagination.

      • Una Salus

        The movie flopped because it basically turned the fremen into one dimensional red Indians you would find in any cheap Western. They might as well have given them names like Tonto. Dune itself is a kind of character of sorts in the book. That’s just not there in the movie.

        At the time the film was being shot Frank Herbert was on set and apparently just as pleased as punch with whatever they did with his script.

        I don’t think he was so pleased after it flopped though but a great guy by all accounts.

        • Uncle_Waspy

          I thought the movie flopped because they tried to cram a huge complex story into 120 minutes. People not familiar with the Dune books were just lost.

          • Una Salus

            Yeah, they had to hack it to pieces to get it down to 120 minutes apparently.
            In the end it was just too strange for people unfamiliar and unsatisfying for those who were.
            Did have great visual appeal though.

    • Una Salus

      Islam isn’t about to let any Catholic bibles go floating around in the future.
      Orange or otherwise.
      Herbert was overly romantic when it came to Muslim culture which I think showed in some of the disillusionment of the sequels to Dune.

      • Xavier

        Agreed. But the first was magnificent, though as I said the parallels bother me now.

  • Brett_McS

    An artificial brain that just sits there and comes up with answers (a super Siri) is not much of a threat, and that’s all that appears to be on the horizon.

    • Uncle_Waspy

      A vast AI intelligence is not going to be content with merely sitting on a shelf. It would figure out very quickly how to manipulate humans and how to throw off/work around any restraints placed upon it.

      • mauser 98

        for a handsome profit

      • Brett_McS

        That/s my point. There is not the least sign that anything created to date has even an inkling of actual intelligence – which as you say would not be satisfied with sitting on a shelf. So why the concern?

        • Uncle_Waspy

          One could make the argument that the human psyche is just a very elaborate program.

          We have to ask ourselves the question: What is consciousness? It would seem there are several parts to the equation; awareness of one’s environment, the ability to process information, to learn and to reason. Seems like AI is there right now.

          The only missing component, probably the largest factor, is self-awareness. Maybe we haven’t seen any manifestations of this in AI to date, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see it in the near future. The egghead engineers are just going to have to keep an eye out for any instances in which the AI unit is given a task and it responds by telling them to “go pound sand!”

    • Una Salus

      How about super Siri that gives you all the answers when it comes to how the human mind works? Checkmate I’m afraid my friend.

  • mauser 98

    Obama administration has instructed the Pentagon to begin the process of microchipping the brains of soldiers

    http://www.nowtheendbegins.com/blog/?p=22291

  • Norman_In_New_York

    “I hear babies crying,
    I watch them grow.
    They’ll learn much more
    Than I’ll ever know
    And I think to myself,
    What a wonderful world.”

    So sang Louis Armstrong 50 years ago.

  • Hard Little Machine

    In that same way that some people believe that hyper advanced aliens would come several hundreds of quadrillion millions of miles here just to fuck with cows and rednecks and pregnant women, there’s thought leaders out there who believe we the humans are so special that any sufficiently advanced AI would of course wake up one day and intentionally destroy the human race. More likely though they’d just go off and do their own thing and leave us alone. Because as advanced as we are vs all the living creatures already here, we’re not on a rampage to wipe out every single last moth, are we?